A right of passage for new arrivals on Love Island is for the original Islanders to quiz them on just what they’re on the show for. Strangely enough nobody yet has responded with “£50k and the opportunity to turn my Instagram into a carefully curated gallery of diet supplement promotions”. Instead each one of them earnestly declares they are there for love, and across living rooms in the UK every single one of us mutters, “yeah, right”.
Why spend eight weeks hanging out with a group of people you may or may not fancy when you could dedicate a couple of hours to some serious Tinder swiping and find someone you quite like the look of who lives ten minutes down the road? Except of course if it was that easy none of us would be watching Love Island in the first place – we’d be far too busy recreating it. But dating today is tough and it can lead the least fame-hungry of us to do bizarre things in the search for love.
Tereza Burki, for example, was so determined to find love that she paid a professional matchmaker £12,400 in order to find her the man of her dreams. She claims that Seventy Thirty promised her access to thousands of men that exactly met her criteria (which included owning international homes – a request I will be adding to my own dating profile, after all as and when relations break down you can always leave the country knowing that you have somewhere to go). It’s unclear exactly how many dates Burki went on or what the men she was introduced to were like but they clearly didn’t meet her standards and she is now suing the agency for fraud.
As someone who has sat in the over-perfumed offices of a dating agency and contemplated throwing away a good couple of thousand on finding a life partner, I can understand her anger. Of course, those of us who were stupid enough to spend our twenties dating a professional gambler know only too well that you should never risk what you can’t afford to lose. But when it comes to dating in your late thirties and forties, it can often feel like the odds are never in your favour and so, if you’ve got the cash, what harm can a little flutter on your own personal Cilla be?
I decided it wasn’t worth the risk but then I had insider knowledge in the form of two friends who’d been there and spent that. If only Burki and I had met before I would have warned her, it simply isn’t worth the money. If neither you nor your friends can find you someone vaguely eligible to go out with, how on earth is a former recruitment consultant, who has only met you for half an hour, going to be able to manage it? Of course it can work. One of the aforementioned friends, who invested £1,500 in the process, is now married to a man who owns a hedge fund which, by anyone’s standards, is a good pay out. The other one, however, is £6,000 out of pocket and wishing she’d spent the money on a really great holiday and a dog – more fun and definitely more loyal.
However, while there isn’t much about the dating agency world that I’m keen on, there is a lot about this case that I like. The sheer level of self confidence that it must take to believe you’re such a catch that the only way a dating agency could fail to find you an appropriate match would be if they never looked in the first place is something, in my opinion, to be applauded. As a single woman in a big city I can attest that years of painful internet dating can really erode your belief that it’s them and not you. Plus, how fantastic to believe that you are so absolutely deserving of love that if you don’t get it there must be a legal remedy available.
Mostly though I’m interested to see what precedent it sets. If she wins could we all start invoicing Tinder for our bad dates? Spent £50 on a new Warehouse dress only for its first outing to be two hours in an old man’s pub listening to an intense defence of Jordan Peterson? Simply send the bill to Bumble and breathe a sigh of relief that you can consign both the dress and the date to the bin.
Perhaps the government could intervene and make every one of those polite “would you like another drink” requests, when you really don’t want to but you’re sure some tenant of feminism requires you to buy at least one round before you can make an escape, tax deductible?
And what about those unseen expenses? Could you bill for the time you invested in swiping and chatting with a “35, single, freelance journalist” who turned out to be 40, living with his mother and defining “journalist” as “once pitched an article to Vice. It wasn’t published”? Or demand compensation for the sleep lost to an inferior sexual performance from someone who only remembered he had a wife the morning after? And will it one day be possible for me to demand reparations for the phone bill run up on deep and meaningful conversations with the part time magician who couldn’t quite seem to make his full time girlfriend disappear?
Of course we couldn’t stop at simply suing the dating provider – we’d have to go after the dates themselves. Otherwise who could you blame for the time an instant connection made with a fellow participant on a charity car race never amounted to anything? No that simply wouldn’t do. Rather than letting it go the only thing would be to sue for breach of promise, after all agreeing to meet someone by the exit after you’ve both grabbed your coats is an offer and an acceptance under law, so surely it must be binding and there must be some form of action you can take when half an hour later you’re still making small talk with the bouncer?
And that is where it all gets a little worrying. Because if we can sue someone else for being a terrible date then what might anyone decide they want to sue us for? Would the man who wondered out loud why I wasn’t taller be demanding compensation for false advertising? Would my long-term ex claim sexual harassment because when we broke up I might have drunkenly reminisced about happier times via text once too often? Or could the comedian that I had to gently let down after two lovely but connectionless dates claim that I simply hadn’t given him enough of a chance and was therefore discriminating against funny people?
No, I’m sorry Burki, dating in the 21st century is hard work but we simply cannot be allowed to bring the courts into romance. Leave it to the TV producers who at least have an interest in creating a happy ending, and a full team of PR experts to help you manage your image if you get publicly dumped, to match make the next generation. Meanwhile you’ll simply have to join the rest of us single people in wondering if maybe it’s not them, maybe it’s me.